Lessons for Contemporary Counterinsurgencies: The Rhodesian Experience

by Bruce Hoffman, Jennifer Taw, David W. Arnold


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This report examines the counterinsurgency campaign waged by Rhodesia between 1965 and 1980. Its purpose is to analyze the lessons learned from the Rhodesian conflict and to assess the relevance of these lessons both to United States low-intensity-conflict training and doctrine and to the insurgencies occurring at this time in Central America. The research concentrated on the four areas common to most insurgencies: (1) security force organization and attendant command-control-communication issues; (2) countermeasures to suppress urban terrorism; (3) rural pacification and security; and (4) intelligence collection, collation, and dissemination. The greatest challenge facing the U.S. Army in evolving a credible and coherent low-intensity-conflict doctrine today is that of overcoming the institutional barriers that inhibit change and adaptation. The Army must adjust its dominant conventional warfighting mindset to the vagaries and complexities of warfare at the low end of the conflict spectrum.

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